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LightHouse News

Better and Stronger: EHC on the 1st Anniversary of the Napa Wildfires

One year later, Enchanted Hills Camp is hosting programs for more blind campers than ever before.

“Hey!” Ellie exclaims with all the gusto of a self-proclaimed theater kid. “We can do stuff when we’re blind,” she reminds us bluntly, punctuating it with a knowing chuckle.

2018 was Ellie’s third year at camp, and her first teen session, and you can tell it’s been going well. Obsessed with improv, acting and performing – camp is not only a place where she can have fun and perform, but also a place where she can get over the normal grind of feeling like the “weird kid” in school. Talking to her on the fountain lawn this summer, you might never know that this summer camp almost didn’t happen.

One year ago today, the staff of Enchanted Hills Camp grabbed whatever they could hold in their arms and narrowly escaped as wildfire advanced across Mt. Veeder and overtook our 311 forested acres in Napa. If you had asked anyone that night if we would see teens tromping through camp this summer, their answer would have been bleak.

As our evacuated staff waited for news, the hard truths of one of California’s greatest natural disasters emerged. Our staff house had incinerated. The Redwood Grove Theater stage melted into a gnarl of smoldering debris. Worst of all, our rustic but historic lower camp cabins, the summer homes of up to 120 blind and visually impaired children and families for almost seven decades, were destroyed. There was talk of burned wildlife and downed power lines; there was no talk of summer camp.

Winter began and cleanup efforts started in earnest — the devoted staff of Enchanted Hills refused to accept defeat. Slowly, and with great determination, the crew returned one by one to a smokey, smoldering camp and began to rebuild. More than 600 burned trees were felled and carted away, clean water and power was returned, and as spring approached and rains continued to wash the acreage clean, the smell of smoke began to fade.

Today, the parts of camp that still stand are more beautiful and welcoming than ever. We hosted our first rental group since the fires – Justin Siena High School – and will soon reopen bookings for rentals to the general public. Flower gardens, carefully tended by staff and volunteers, have sprung up around the property. A new tile mosaic encircles the fountain on the lawn. Fresh paint, new windows and comfortable new beds promise a better night’s sleep in the lakeside cabins. This weekend, one hundred volunteers joined us for a day of painting, cleaning and clearing debris to ensure that whoever visits camp will find it better and stronger than ever.

Two bungalows sit illuminated next to each other in the evening woods.
Two bungalows sit illuminated next to each other in the evening woods.

The true gratitude comes from campers like Ellie who can explain why having a camp for people who are blind or have low vision is so important. “We build a lot of trust here,” she says, tearing up a bit. “It really does empower you.”

“I’ve definitely matured and realized that I can do anything – that my vision shouldn’t limit what I do. From a young age my parents have told me that, but I’ve never really believed them 100%. People here, we’re all different. We’re all just human beings and we all just want to feel love and feel appreciated for who we are, rather than what we look like or if we use a cane.”

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When asked about the 2018 summer at Enchanted Hills, Camp Director Tony Fletcher sums it up in two words: “Extremely successful.” A 29-year veteran of LightHouse, Tony led the EHC team through good spirits, optimism and his signature no-panic attitude towards an inspired comeback that not only resulted in a full schedule of 2018 summer camp sessions – but the highest-attended teen session in our history – with as many as 70 blind and low vision teenagers basking in the glories of summer this July.

“We had outstanding staff and volunteer support,” says Tony, attributing camp’s rapid comeback to a dedicated community effort. “The campers celebrated the rebirth of their beloved camp. It was just a really positive experience all around, for all of us. The reward was the happiness of our campers. Pure and simple.”

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Tony is careful to remind us: “We’re not done.”

In total, the heroic efforts of our staff and volunteers have preserved about half of camp’s original capacity to house groups. Now, we need to build back our destroyed facilities and return camp’s capacity to 120 people for peak sessions and community events, as well as the trails, bridges and infrastructure which makes their visits enjoyable.

Over the next year, Enchanted Hills Camp has some high priorities: We need to rebuild the storage barn, construct the shade structure and pool house area, add more outdoor showers, and most importantly, select our architect and present a master plan for the total redesign of our lower camp area. This is a process that will involve architects, the LightHouse board of directors, and of course, you. Community feedback will be an integral part of helping to shape the future of Enchanted Hills Camp.

Whether they’ve been coming to camp for three years or 63 years, there are hundreds of people like Ellie who will return, year after year, thanks to your generosity and support.

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Warm regards,

Bryan Bashin

CEO, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

p.s. Rebuilding Enchanted Hills camp will be an expensive undertaking, as current law mandates that the rebuilt cabins and gathering rooms be far more strongly built and fire-resistant than their predecessors. The LightHouse is grateful to the many camp lovers who have already shown their generosity; if you’re thinking about where your own giving can make a difference for the next century, camp is something you can depend upon.

Aspiring DJs, producers and engineers: Jumpstart your career at the new LightHouse Audio Academy Workshops

LightHouse’s new immersive program launches in fall 2018 to educate blind and low vision students for careers in music, radio, recording and more.

October 15 preview: Meet other aspiring blind DJ’s and get a performance from working DJ Ryan Dour at a free Audio Academy DJ Demo Night!

This fall LightHouse is pleased to announce our new Audio Academy, an ongoing series of immersive courses to teach employable skills in the field of audio engineering and production. For our first course, we are partnering with the Illinois-based, blind-run I See Music, the only school in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.

“Intro to DJing” will be a 3-day intensive workshop, which will host a small group of students in our dorm-style residences over two nights for an immersive, high-value learning experience. The course will introduce students to the software Deejay Pro and teach students the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. See full course details below.

The workshop will also include a comprehensive discussion of the vocational opportunities in the DJ field from Byron Harden, founder and CEO of I See Music. Come spend the weekend with your fellow audio heads, and learn the skills needed for competitive employment in the music and entertainment industry.

What is Audio Academy?

Back in the days of analog, being a blind radio disc jockey, record producer or even a house engineer was not out of the question. But with the turn of the century and the turn to digital, the industry traded knobs, buttons and sliders for inaccessible graphic user interfaces on screens. For several years, the accessibility of the audio industry screeched to a halt.

Today, the landscape is greatly improved: industry leaders like Apple, AVID, Algoriddim and Native Instruments have made commitments to accessibility, and blind individuals can finally operate the tools of the trade to become studio owners, radio producers and musicians in a competitive working environment.

LightHouse Audio Academy will continue over the course of the year with talks, informal gatherings and more immersive weekends (each weekend will focus on a different topic, software or hardware application).

Please note: all who are interested in the workshop must fill out our brief application form.

LHAA 101: Intro to DJing Workshop

When: Friday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. – Sunday Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. (3 days, 2 nights)

Where: LightHouse for the Blind offices and residences – 1155 Market Street., San Francisco, CA 94103

Who: For all blind and low vision students

Fee: $800, (includes 2-night overnight stay, breakfast and lunch for 3 days)

Prerequisites: Ability to navigate with VoiceOver on Mac OS

Equipment: Apple workstations will be provided to students for the weekend if necessary, but bringing your own computer (Mac OS or iPad only) and Deejay Pro-compatible DJ controller is recommended.

Apply: To apply for a spot in the first workshop you must fill out our brief Audio Academy application form, located here.

If you’re still unsure, join us on October 15 at 7 p.m. to get a sneak peak of what it’s like to blind DJ at our free preview event.

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Behind the Map: Why a GPS pioneer still uses paper

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

Mike May knows a bit about maps. He founded the company that launched the first accessible GPS, Sendero Group, and since 1999, Mike has introduced the world to a variety of talking map softwares, transforming and shaping the way blind people travel.

But despite his love for technology, if you step into Mike’s home or office, you’ll find the tables adorned with what may seem to be a vestige of the past: paper maps.

“The GPS is great in terms of volume, and numbers of points of interest and streets and all of that, but if you want to have a picturea tactile, geographic way of understanding streetsthen there’s nothing better than a tactile representation,” Mike says.

Mike’s a firm believer that hard-copy maps still meet a crucial need for non-visual learners that is currently not being met elsewhere.

The current iteration of TMAP differs from when he first encountered the beta version years ago in form and in scope, but he said that its application serves a critical, universal need: to orient by communicating a physical, material sense of space.

“The value of tactile maps is something that’s been around forever,” he says. “The ability to deliver those maps to people nationwide in a cost-effective manner is really the key.”

Mike has been blind since age 3, and has been involved with the LightHouse since age 7, when he went to camp at Enchanted Hills. In the 1980s, he was on the LightHouse board, and today lives in Wichita, Kansas where he serves as executive director of the Workforce Innovation Center at Envision.

When Mike moved to Wichita from the Bay Area earlier this year, he turned to the LightHouse’s made-to-order TMAPs.

“I needed to learn at least two things: one is my work location, and my home location,” he says. “I called up and I ordered maps for both spots, got a nice clean package, and now I have those available at my house. And I have the work ones available not only for me…we have lots of blind people, just like the LightHouse, that can take advantage of it here, so those maps sit in our reception area for anybody to browse.”

Mike said that he thinks the future of TMAP could include tech integration with the current physical form. As it exists now, he said that TMAP is both a unique and critical tool. “I think it’s a very undiscovered capability, and I applaud the LightHouse for making it available,” he says.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA).

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Learn more about the MAD Lab where these maps are produced.

Love Maps? Sign up for our new ‘Map Love’ newsletter

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Blind Talent: Resources for Actors, Artists and Performers

When it comes to representations of blindness in TV, film and other forms of entertainment, there’s no match for the real thing. It’s LightHouse’s mission to support people who are blind or have low vision in their passions, and we work to connect talented individuals with opportunities in the entertainment, advertising and media industries.

Our database of blind talent covers a wide range of demographic and skill levels, and we regularly consult with producers and casting agents to refer for roles. Please note: we do not advertise unpaid work or cast student documentaries via this database.

For Actors, Artists and Performers

Sign up below to add your name to our database. When you enter your information, you agree to the following:

  • You identify as blind, low vision or visually impaired (please note: wearing glasses for vision correction does not qualify an individual as visually impaired)
  • >You will be e-mailed occasionally with casting calls, trade or professional news, educational materials and individual inquiries.
  • All sign-ups will be thoroughly reviewed.
  • Sign-ups that are incomplete, inactive or deemed inauthentic will be cleaned from the database.
  • Your name may be given directly to casting agents, producers or other professionals seeking talent.

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Talent / Discipline


For Studios and Casting Agents

Send casting calls, paid work opportunities and gig requests to communications@lighthouse-sf.org.

Story Consulting

It is of highest importance that portrayals of blindness are high-quality, accurate, and do not spread myths about disability. LightHouse offers consulting services to producers, directors and writers to ensure that writing, production and performance is up to this standard.

To inquire about our story consulting services, contact communications@lighthouse-sf.org.

Unpaid Interviews and Performances

Our mission is to foster the independence, self-reliance and equality of people who are blind or visually impaired, and therefore we do not use our database to recruit for unpaid or uncredited work. If you are in search of a blindness expert opinions, are writing a news story or another journalistic work, please contact press@lighthouse-sf.org.

From rock climbing to yoga, LightHouse has a wellness program for everyone

“I try to do things that people think blind people can’t do,” Amber Sherrard said on a recent afternoon at LightHouse, “That’s my main goal.” Amber had just spent the weekend with 11 blind students doing just that –– climbing, flying and suspended in mid-air.

Amber offers a variety of fitness programs and excursions to the community at LightHouse, and has no interest in advancing stereotypes about blind people by keeping options limited to new and emerging sports such as Goalball which, despite their value, are often thought of as the only sports that are accessible.

Amber Sherrard, LightHouse’s Health and Wellness Program Coordinator, views liberated movement as foundational to overall wellbeing and believes these skills are crucial for moving through the world with aplomb.

Amber facilitates activities from pole dancing to hiking to chair fitness classes for people with limited mobility. Amber’s chair fitness class includes a mix of yogic movements, stretching, strength and balance exercises, and posture improvement training.

“Sometimes blind people don’t do certain things because there are no other blind people there,” she said. “Our community provides a safe space for people to try different things, and learn, so they feel more comfortable doing things independently.”

Besides classes, Amber also organizes and facilitates a themed wellness retreat every three months. The most recent retreat featured indoor skydiving, acro yoga and rock climbing at Mission Cliffs in San Francisco.

“These programs do change that perspective for people like volunteers or community members; I think it helps them to demolish misconceptions about blind people,” she said.

Amber said her favorite programs take place outside of LightHouse, where the activities take on a symbolic and practical significance for people outside of the immediate group. She views educating the public about the capability of blind people as one of the most gratifying parts of her job.

September also saw the kickoff of LightHouse’s new hiking group, which had 35 participants of all different backgrounds and mobility levels taking on a 5-mile journey around Angel Island on a beautiful Sunday morning. In October, the group will meet again on October 7th for a hike around the Lakeside Nature Trail at the Lafayette Reservoir. 

A group of 35 hikers of all ages, from children to adults, stand on a dock in front of a sign that says "Angel Island."
A group of 35 hikers of all ages, from children to adults, stand on a dock in front of a sign that says “Angel Island.”

“It definitely changes the perception of blindness itself, especially when we do activities outside of these four walls,” Amber said. “People get to see that blind people are out living their best life, too!”

Amber also holds educational programs and seminars on nutrition, which she said is critical, as obesity disproportionately affects people with disabilities.

The scope of Amber’s work extends beyond the classes proper; she noted that students often apply practical skills, and most often confidence, to their lives beyond exercise. She said that students often remark to her that they feel better equipped to handle obstacles at home and in the workplace.

“It definitely provides a sense of empowerment,” she said of the classes.

Looking forward, Amber said that she hopes to continue to serve students by offering a changing variety of activities, including kickboxing and hip hop dance.

Here are some upcoming classes at LightHouse:

Every Wednesday at 10 a.m.: Meditation

Every Wednesday at 11 a.m.: Chair Fitness

Every Wednesday at 5 p.m.: Yoga for Every Body

September 29th, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Yoga Workshop: Keeping the Balance: backbends and Balance Poses 101

October 24h, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP)

October 27th, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Yoga Workshop: Flow in the Dark: A celebration for Meet the Blind Month

Behind the Map: A midwesterner meets Market Street

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community. Order yours today by calling 1-888-400-8933.

When Sheri Wells-Jensen was a child, she got one book per week. That was how it worked, for a blind kid – a braille reader – who relied on braille lending libraries. Each week, Sheri would bound out of her front door, crashing through her front yard and into the mailman’s truck, to get her hands on one new book. Now a linguistics professor at Bowling Green State University, access to language and information has become a passion of Sheri’s, as well as other cool things like aliens and ukuleles.

A portrait shot of Sheri Wells-Jensen.She also loves exploring cities. Depending on how you see it, Market Street in San Francisco can feel like a boulevard of first-world efficiency or a medieval circus. At times, it feels like both at once. This wild, eclectic fusion can be intimidating for some, but this crazy hubbub is what Sheri loves most about visiting the city by the bay. On a recent trip, we had the pleasure of printing out her first-ever TMAP.

It was right before she was taking off to catch the bus back to her hotel. The bus stop was a few blocks away and Sheri, her own most cheerful but fierce advocate, exclaimed when we told her we had a tool to help her learn the neighborhood in just a few minutes – and that it was something she could bring with her, should she get lost or just want to explore.

image 1: A TMAP of the neighborhood around 1155 Market Street, marked by large print labelsimage 2: a TMAP of the neighborhood around 1155 Market Street, marked by braille labels

“Having an accurate,accessible,hard copy map to explore saves endless frustration,” Sheri says. “It changes the rules of the game: without the map, I get directions and learn a route, hoping to fill in details later on. With the map, I learn the neighborhood and then decide how I want to get to my destination.”

Holding her TMAP in front of her, pressed against her torso as she inspected the braille labels and learned the many swerving diagonals of the area, it was impossible not to feel the infectious sense of  satisfaction that comes from unlocking so much knowledge with such ease – especially for a kid who grew up on only one book at a time.

As Sheri sees it, maps and tactile aids are a crucial tool for anyone who needs access to information. And when she wants to learn an area, she thinks it’s better than talking. “I basically have two choices,” she explains. “I can sit some poor unsuspecting fellow down and grill him relentlessly about every intersection and every street name (most of which he won’t remember) – or – with a map in my hands, I can transfer the whole picture of the area straight into my head, thereby saving time and preserving my friendships.”

You can listen to Sheri talk about braille love letters and why braille is worth fighting for in a recent episode of The World in Words on PRI, entitled “Will blind people use Braille in the future?”.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA). Each TMAP package is $19.99 per address.

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Click here to learn more more about TMAP.

Love maps? Sign up for our new ‘Map Love’ newsletter!

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Record notes on the go with a talking recorder from the Adaptations Store

The Adaptations Store at LightHouse serves blind and visually impaired people by offering tools, technology and other comprehensive solutions to make life accessible. Each month, we feature a product from our store to highlight the expansive offerings at Adaptations.

This month’s product is for blind people who want to record notes on the go, and want to avoid cumbersome tech gear with a single, streamlined digital recorder.

The Eltrinex V12Pro Talking Digital Recorder is designed with input from blind users. The recorder’s features are all spoken aloud using the built-in voice guidance option along with audible beeps so it can be operated by users independently.

With a one-touch recording option at startup, and 12GB of internal storage along with a micro SD slot, storage of the recorded WAV or MP3 files is limitless.

The high quality stereo mics can pick up soft sounds from an incredible distance, along with loud sounds which are handled by the recorder’s accessible limiter to prevent distortion and clipping.

The device is incredibly versatile, and is useful whether you’re attending a concert or recording a lecture in an auditorium or classroom. This talking recorder captures every note, and plays it back via headphones or the device’s internal speaker.

An FM radio and a talking clock round out the recorder’s options, offering scheduled recording and easy file editing, all done through the talking menus.

LightHouse sells this product for $225.00 plus tax at our headquarters in San Francisco (1155 Market St., 10th Floor). Although we do not take online orders at the current time, we encourage you to call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up or mail orders or email our store staff at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

The Asian Art Museum opens a new accessible exhibit

In a new exhibition of Indian art, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum takes steps towards accessibility for blind and visually impaired patrons.

Closeup of a tactile version of The Hindu deity Kali, by Baua Devi, shows the deity's face in bright pinks, yellows and blacks with her tongue hanging out of her mouth.
Closeup of a tactile version of The Hindu deity Kali, by Baua Devi, shows the deity’s face in bright pinks, yellows and blacks with her tongue hanging out of her mouth.

On September 7, a new exhibition opens at the Asian Art Museum featuring 17 contemporary artists working in the Mithila style, a traditional style of women’s domestic decoration originating in the Indian subcontinent.

The exhibition, Painting Is My Everything: Art from India’s Mithila Region, includes three tactile renderings produced by the LightHouse’s MAD Lab and designed by Hong Kong-based social designer Rico Chan. The tactile renderings are displayed on kiosks throughout the exhibition, accompanied by braille labels and audio descriptions, which can be accessed through the museum’s app.

The temporary exhibition features 30 large scale contemporary works on paper from Bihar state, the subcontinent’s rural northeast. It is the first major exhibition in more than a decade to explore how this age-old tradition of women’s domestic decoration has become a vibrant arts movement with a surprising social impact. It is also the museum’s first foray into accessibility in the form of tactile translation, a method that they hope to fine-tune and experiment with in future exhibitions.

“We’ve been chomping at the bit to integrate more accessible accommodations and it was the exhibition that was coming up when everything fell into place,” says Director of Education and Interpretation at the museum, Deborah Clearwaters. “We want to be accessible to people of all abilities, and we know we have much more to do. This project is one experiment in bringing artworks to life for visitors who are blind or have low vision. We have more of an opportunity to try things in some of our changing galleries and these paintings really lend themselves to this approach because they’re very graphic and 2d in style.”

Mithila style painting is characterized by density of line and texture, strong figurative outlines of brush and ink, fine detailing and elaborate borders, and was originally practiced exclusively by women on the walls of their homes. The art form often depicts rituals or religious imagery, including scenes of weddings, flowers and animals as symbols of fecundity and depictions of Hindu god and goddesses. The style of painting is a catalyst of economic growth and social change in Mithila, and for many women, has translated into financial independence and community respect.

Women artists make up only 3 to 5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe, and in 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007 to 2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. A further winnowing occurs for female Asian artists — so there’s a beautiful synchronicity, then, to making underrepresented work accessible to a group who has minimal access to visual art, even in the most established museums and galleries around the world.

“The Asian Art Museum stands firmly on the side of inclusion, global consciousness, and cultural empathy,” says the museum’s Artistic Director and CEO, Jay Xu. “Not only are our doors open to all, but we actively pursue ways to make our museum more accessible to more people.”

The idea grew out of conversations with disabled members of the Asian Art Museum when asked for suggestions for improving accessibility at an ongoing series of Disability Community Charrettes. Several blind or low vision members suggested tactile renderings and braille labeling to accompany detailed audio description. The museum involved several of these patrons (with varying degrees of vision) into an iterative process that determined the final tactile design and spatial layout of the exhibition.

The tactile kiosks are comprised of slanted counter-height platforms holding the artwork rendered in full color, with the added element of raised tactile lines and textures. The wall behind each kiosk offers a printed sheet with the verbal description of the piece as well as information about the piece in braille on the tactile surface. The accompanying audio description can be accessed via the Asian Art Museum’s app or this YouTube playlist. The setup is meant to allow both blind and sighted audiences to interact with the pieces in tandem and, hopefully, start a dialogue.

“This is an opportunity that we’ve been waiting for for a while,” says the MAD Lab’s Project Manager BJ Epstein. “We’re really excited to be able to produce tactile artwork for the Asian Art Museum. You can hear about a piece of art or read about a piece of art, but without vision, it’s by getting your hands on it that you can really get a sense of the piece and its layout. We’re really excited to be doing this for the museum and for our community.”

Painting Is My Everything: Art from India’s Mithila Region runs through December 30. The exhibition is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 9 p.m. Learn more about accessibility at the Asian Art Museum before you go.

Provide your feedback

The museum will host a focus group for blind and low vision patrons on Saturday, September 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. in hopes of understanding how to further improve their accessibility standards for future exhibitions — RSVP to communityengagement@asianart.org.

Contact the LightHouse MAD Lab

To contract for custom tactile maps of your neighborhood, workplace or university or propose a museum project like this one, visit http://lighthouse-sf.org/braille-and-accessible-design/.

Announcing the 2018 Superfest Disability Film Festival lineup

San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State are proud to announce the lineup for this year’s Superfest Disability Film Festival.

Join us on October 20 at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley and on October 21 the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco for the best in unapologetic, accessible and cutting edge disability film.

Purchase tickets to Superfest 2018

Superfest is the longest running disability film festival in the world. Since it first debuted as a small Los Angeles showcase in 1970, it has become an eagerly anticipated international event. The festival is one of the few in the world to provide an accessible film experience to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.

Disability Rights advocate Alice Wong speaks at Superfest in 2017.
Disability Rights advocate Alice Wong speaks at Superfest in 2017.

Each judge for Superfest is a member of the disability community, and they ground our festival in the values and ambitions of a progressive, Bay Area-driven disability ethos. The jury is comprised of filmographers, disability rights advocates, community organizers and award-winning creatives. They choose the submissions based on standards of artistry, portrayal of disability and ingenuity.

Superfest features films from five continents which highlight a range of experiences of people living with disabilities through a variety of genres and formats. From observational documentary to action to stop motion, we have films which will entertain, educate and promote discussion on disabilities.


Announcing the 2018 Superfest Lineup

Stumped (US, 2017), Documentary Short, Best of Festival – Short (25 minutes)

Climber Maureen Beck is not here to be your inspiration. She was born missing her lower left arm, but that hasn’t stopped her from going hard. “I don’t want to just be a good one-armed climber,” says Maureen. “I want to be a good climber.”

A climber ascends a free-standing rock, while two people stand on a rock below her.
A climber ascends a free-standing rock, while two people stand on a rock below her.

Still Tomorrow (China, 2016), Documentary, Best of Festival – Feature (1 hour 23 minutes)

Yu Xiuhua is a village woman with cerebral palsy, who became China’s most well-known poet in 2015. Her 20-year-long arranged marriage has become the biggest pain in her life. Through her poems, she contemplates her fate and writes about her body and her desire for true love.

A woman stands with her back to the camera in a field of a dark, tall grassy crop.

Stim (US, 2017), Documentary Short, P.K. Walker Innovation in Craft Award (7 minutes)

An artistic ode to the practice of stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior, the repetition of physical movements or sounds, or repetitive movement of objects.

Lower-body shot of a child sitting cross-legged, grasping a blue plush toy with one hand.

Who Am I To Stop It (US, 2017), Documentary Short, Disability Justice Award (30 minutes) 

This semi-observational documentary explores isolation, art and transformation after brain injury. Through cinéma vérité, the film follows Dani Sanderson, a poet and beat boxer, as she navigates autonomy, relationships, and questions of family, queer sexuality and faith.

A woman sits, reading a sheet with a poem entitled “Never Ending Trauma.”

To Know Him (UK, 2018), Dramatic Short (28 minutes)

When a tragic accident leaves Sarah grieving for her deaf partner Rob, she is forced to track down and engage with his estranged hearing father. To lay the man she loves to rest, Sarah must overcome a barrier far greater than language.

Two women sit, both with looks of concern, gazing towards the left. The woman, at left, is in focus and wears a black shirt.

Making Waves (Australia, 2017), Documentary Short (6 minutes)

Max McAuley is a young, professional dancer with Down Syndrome. In this story, Max is the principal dancer in a choreographed work that is inspired by the watery world of his dreams.

A boy dances in front of lights which mimic water, and below, subtitle: "Dancing is my thing that I love."
A boy dances in front of lights which mimic water, and below, subtitle: “Dancing is my thing that I love.”

Just Go! (Latvia, 2017), Action Short (11 minutes)

Inspired by the true story about a young man, Just, who lost both of his legs in a childhood accident. At age 24, he is in love with the girl next door, and through an action-packed series of events, the film proves that looks can be deceiving.

A young man rolls with his torso on a skateboard and arms pushing him past flowers in a market.
A young man rolls with his torso on a skateboard and arms pushing him past flowers in a market.

Gaelynn Lea – The Songs We Sing (US, 2017), Documentary Short (11 minutes)

Minnesota violinist and disability rights advocate Gaelynn Lea travels the upper Midwest on tour, experiencing the ups and downs of the road while hustling hard to make it as a performer and artist.

A woman cradles a violin while leaning towards a microphone.
A woman cradles a violin while leaning towards a microphone.

This Is Normal (US, 2014), Dramatic Short (19 minutes) 

A young deaf woman undergoes an experimental medical procedure that is supposed to “cure” her of her deafness and give her the ability to hear. Despite the controversy, Gwen risks her friends, culture and identity to discover the answer to the question, “Is it worth giving up who you’ve been for who you could become?”

A profile shot of a woman sitting in her car, looking distraught.
A profile shot of a woman sitting in her car, looking distraught.

Journey to the Miracle Man (Sweden/Brazil, 2018), Documentary Feature (1 hour 5 minutes)

With as much hope as doubt, Fabian and Lisa travel on a journey that will change their worldview. But is the Miracle Man (John of God) the savior everyone is talking about? And do they need to believe to be healed?

A woman stands on a ledge in front of a fresh night sky with low, blue light in front of an open frontier. She holds her phone up to photograph the scene.
A woman stands on a ledge in front of a fresh night sky with low, blue light in front of an open frontier. She holds her phone up to photograph the scene.

Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall (US, 2016), Documentary Short (28 minutes)

When 15-year-old Kanalu Young takes a dive into shallow water, he becomes quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Angry and defiant through months of rehabilitation, he begins to change when he learns the Hawaiian language, and discovers an untold story of Hawaiian history.

A group of people walk in a march, and one joins in a wheelchair. The people wear leis and flowers, and men wearing shirts that say "Security" surround at the bounds.
A group of people walk in a march, and one joins in a wheelchair. The people wear leis and flowers, and men wearing shirts that say “Security” surround at the bounds.

Stopgap in Stop Motion (UK, 2017), Animated Short (5 minutes) 

Photographs of performers in a disabled and non-disabled dance company come to life. The individual artists dance out of the photos and across table tops until the whole company meets and performs in unison.

Two photographs sit upright beside a shelf of papers. At left, a man stands looking at his phone. In the photo at right, a woman sitting in a wheelchair smiles back at the camera.
Two photographs sit upright beside a shelf of papers. At left, a man stands looking at his phone. In the photo at right, a woman sitting in a wheelchair smiles back at the camera.

Purchase tickets to Superfest 2018

Access at Superfest

As always, Superfest will be furnished with a wide range of accessible accommodations: audio description, open captions, ASL interpretation, audience-integrated wheelchair seating, close-up seating for people with low vision or who are deaf or hard of hearing, a chemical free and scent free area set back from rest of audience, a place to retreat, gender neutral restrooms, easy access to public transportation including BART and MUNI, and ramp access to the stage.

Behind the Map: This O&M Instructor uses TMAP to demystify the streets of Vacaville

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

Sarah McIntyre has fond childhood memories of San Francisco. These trips were all defined by one nostalgic artifact: a giant, foldable street map from AAA. “My mother taught me to read maps,” Sarah says. “She was always the navigator.” And though most families now navigate with digital maps, Sarah fondly remembers the hard copies: well-loved, frayed on the edges, markings revealing every adventure past and future.

Today Sarah is an orientation and mobility instructor at LightHouse, and when she teaches blind students, she stresses this point: navigating by smartphone works until it doesn’t — until you’re out of service, or the environment is so loud that the speech from your phone is too hard to hear. Even with endless technology at our fingertips, there’s no match for a real map.

This is why, when our Media and Accessible Design (MAD) Lab started creating automated tactile maps (TMAPs) this year, Sarah immediately adopted the on-demand maps as a learning tool for her students.

Working out of Solano County, Sarah finds that towns like Vacaville – where car culture reigns supreme – can be hard for pedestrians to picture in the mind.

Map segment depicting a point of interest on a loop with multiple cross-streets
Map segment depicting a point of interest on a loop with multiple cross-streets

Sarah recently used TMAP to confront just this sort of dilemma with a student living on a street that was a circular loop – but not a perfect circle. Using words to explain the tricky extra turn to lead the student back to her doorstep was proving too difficult. New to America, the student had only been in the United States for three years, and mobility was a challenge. It would be a crucial step forward for her to master her home neighborhood.

Normally, Sarah would have confronted this challenge by taking out her DIY mapping kit: a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, various hand embossers and loose Wikki Stix, among other odds and ends. But hand-crafting a tactile diagram is a big effort to explain one confusing intersection. With TMAP, Sarah had a touchable diagram of the strange circular block printed immediately.

Another student had Sarah print his first TMAP of the area around Gold’s Gym in downtown Vacaville. As luck would have it, the gym turned out to be smack dab in the middle of downtown, which meant that this map would be a particularly good one; useful for finding more than just the gym.

Sarah and her student headed downtown with the map, starting from the center and getting to know the outlying streets –– turning the map with each turn of the corner to navigate methodically, non-visually, through Vacaville’s old town center.

A map depicting many streets in the downtown grid of Vacaville, centering around 201 Main Street.
A map depicting many streets in the downtown grid of Vacaville, centering around 201 Main Street.

For her student, Sarah says, the map was a revelation. “He didn’t know how to read a map visually, let alone non-visually,” she points out. “That’s a huge emotional thing for people, to actually gain a new skill that you thought required eyesight.” Now, she says, he is talking about traveling for work and getting to know new cities with a new level of confidence.

Teaching her students to use the map key has also been a huge boost for their mobility. Not only does each TMAP come with a prominent compass rose, but the key lists the running direction (e.g. North-South or East-West) of each street – all in large print and braille.

“I love braille,” says Sarah. Usually when someone who isn’t blind professes such a thing, they’re not actually familiar with the writing system, or at best, a romantic. But Sarah is serious. “Audio is very linear, and you need the ability to stop moving forward, to control the pace you’re reading at and backtrack fluidly and with braille you have that option. Braille works the same way vision does in that sense.”

Sarah tells her students they don’t need to know braille in order to benefit from the TMAPs, but it’s sure a valuable skill to develop.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA). Each TMAP package is $19.99 per address.

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Click here to learn more more about TMAP.

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